By Monica Manganaro, Fort Benning Maneuver Center of Excellence / FORT BENNING, Ga –
FORT BENNING, Ga. – Senior leaders from around the Army gathered at the Maneuver Center of Excellence on Aug. 22 for the Maneuver Robotics and Autonomous Systems (MRAS) demonstration.
In his welcome remarks, Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of MCoE and Fort Benning, talked of Fort Bennings’s legacy for innovation in modernizing the maneuver force, from the creation of the Army’s first tank, the birth of Airborne and origin of air mobile operations. As in the past, the MCoE continues to be the primary driver for capability development and modernization.
In its most recent contribution to modernizing the maneuver force, the MCoE turned to science and technology solutions for a combat vehicle of the future.
Addressing the audience, Wesley said the MCoE will lead in developing the Next Generation of Combat Vehicles. The MCoE is guided by four key enabling technologies as the first order principles, and one that transcended all. The one is Maneuver Robotics and Autonomous Systems.
In what was the first event of a three-year process, scientists and developers from the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center and the Office of Naval Research, showcased progress made in designing and using robotic combat vehicles and unmanned aerial systems together in scenarios aimed at improving the effectiveness of ground combat formations.
“Robotics and autonomous systems help provide a way to give us enhanced capability to the formation, and provide a greater range of operations,” said Dr. Robert Sadowski, Robotics Senior Research Scientist, U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center. “We can use robots to do those things they do well and offset those things that humans do well.”
Explaining further, Mr. Don Sando, deputy to the commanding general, and director of Capabilities Development and Integration for the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning said, “You can pair unmanned aerial systems and unmanned ground systems and ground force to extend the reach of that formation, and extend the time over which they can be effective, to reduce the risk to our Soldiers in conditions of uncertainty.”
The intent of demonstrations, such as these, is to illustrate the realm of the possible often using repurposed experimental systems or technology available today, said Maj. Alan Stephens, lead project officer for the MCoE’s Mounted Requirements Division. For instance, surrogates such as the Humvee and M113 Armored Personnel Carriers were used in this demonstration as low-cost mobility platforms.
The first display, the Robotic Wingman Joint Capability Technology Demonstration, featured a robotic (unmanned) Humvee with a remote weapon station and an automated target tracking system performing a live-fire demonstration, along with a tethered unmanned aircraft system to increase situational awareness. It also demonstrated a robotic (unmanned) M113 Armored Personnel Carrier that deployed ground robots from its troop compartment.
The second display, the Abrams Lethality Enable Demonstration, showcased a robotic (unmanned) M113 Armored Personnel Carrier as it deployed smoke to conceal movement of two M1 Abrams tanks that maneuvered into a position of advantage to fire on an enemy target.
“The ultimate goal is to identify and develop the MRAS capabilities rapidly, evaluate and assess them and then field those to our forces,” said Sando, making Soldiers more survivable, more lethal, and more effective on the battlefield.”